Varanasi is filled with narrow winding lanes and alleyways. Some hotels are only accessible by Autorickshaw. When booking an hotel, always check if they can be reached by taxi.
Autorickshaws are able to navigate the narrow lanes, and are cheap as chips.
Good for getting around if you tire from walking. Negotiate a fee before departure, and make sure that driver understands exactly where you wish to go to. Most drivers can understand English.
There are trains to Varanasi from all major cities in India. We went overnight on Train number 2560 , which is overnight from Delhi. Train leaves at 18.60 and arrives at Varanasi 07.30am.
we travelled which sleeps two and has a door which can be locked.
Also available is 2AC- sleeping 4- with curtains for privacy.
The trains in India are a reliable and safe way to get from one destination to another. They are usually comfortable, and we have never have any problems.
One bit of advice - Always take along a toilet roll. There seems to always be a shortage of lack of this much needed western commodity.
Distance from Delhi is 776km
In the picture below my friend Manuel (from Spain) is waiting for train to Tundlar Station from Mughal Serai Station. Now where is Tundlar? Where is Mughal Serai? Good Questions.
Tundlar Station is a small town 50km south of Agra. Mughal Serai is a small town 10km south of the Ganges from Varanasi's Kashi Train Station.
We went this way because getting a seat on a Train from Varanasi to Agra (two huge destinations in India) can take weeks. I met many tourists who had been trying for days. The staff won't help you set your route. Not at all. They require you to fill out a reservation form, and queue up and present it to the clerk. If that reservation is not available then you have to try and make another one for another day or time and get back in queue. To the busy tourist thisis preposterous!
What should you do?
Consult your 'Trains at a Glance' think laterally, and fill out a number of reservation forms. Starting of course with your preferred train first, your second choice reservation and so on. Remarkably the Indian rail clerks didn't mind this. In fact I think they respected our use of their system. It worked well. We always got a seat. Even if our journey waqsn't as direct as it could have been. Taxi's are cheap aren't they in India.
It is easy to reach Varanasi by train and the best. You can take a train to Varanasi itself or to the junction Mughal Sarai. Mughal Sarai is India's largest train junction and is worth a see in itself. So if you fail to get a confirmed ticket in a train to Varanasi, just check out a train to Mughal Sarai. All trains passing through this station halt here, for 15 to 30 minutes. There are hundreds of trains from all part of India to Mughal Sarai every day. From Mughal Sarai station, just take an autorickshaw (a threewheeler mini carriage motorvan) to Varanasi. It will take just 30 minutes and you will also enjoy the ride. However, such a carriage is not for those travellers carrying huge luggage.
Travelling around India with India Rail without buying a copy of the India Rail travel Essential: Trains at a Glance, is like trying to cook vegetables without water, possible, but not effective.
This book contains information on every train in India. It has route maps, and India maps. It even has tidbits on India culture and monuments which make a good read on long train trip.
'Trains at a Glance' Allows you to search for trains in three ways: (1) by the number of the train that every train has been allotted, (2) by route - Every train track has an allotted route number and name and (3) by destination.
When you are using this book, use the travel maps to ascertain what train will take you closest to your destination, if the express or direct trains are booked.
If India were a person India Rail would be its circulatory system. This is how important it is. Most of India's rail network is from the period of British Colonial rule. Unfortunately some of it is definately that old.
The India Rail operate the fifth largest Rail network in the world (after USA, Russia, Canada and China) and connect all major tourist and business destinations across the length and breadth of the country. The Indian Railways operate nearly 7800 passenger services a day covering almost 63,000 kms. Everybody travels India rail, and it is India's largest employer.
The railways have one of the most efficient communication systems between 2 stations. The types of class available are 1st class, AC 2tier, AC 3tier, 2nd class sleeper & chair car. The 1st class being phased out being converted in to AC 2 tier/AC 3 tier (recently being introduced in some of the trains).
The 1st class is mainly for 6 persons in day and converted in to a cabin for 4 persons for night travel. The AC 2tier class is mostly recommended for comfortable travelling for long distances as movement of persons in the compartment other than reserved people is not permitted. Also you travel pollution free and bedding is provided at night from an attendant. However there are only 2-3 coaches of AC 2tier per train of 15-17 boggies, hence ticket availability is difficult if not booked well in advance. 2nd class sleeper is the cheapest and most common way of travelling in India in which 3 sleepers are provided for night travel. The chair car is the most comfortable way of travelling for shorter distances in daytime. E.g. Mumbai-Pune, Mumbai-Nasik, Mumbai-Ahmedabad.
The aproximate fare comparison is given below to give you an idea.SECTOR - MUMBAI - BANGALORE (KM-1210/750 Mile) (Aproximate)
AC First Class- Rs. 2800/- , AC 2-Tier Sleeper-Rs.1400/-, First Class-1000/-, AC 3-Tier Sleeper-900/-, 3tier Sleeper-300/-.
Travelling quickly and easily around India as we have already established is a dream with Government sponsored India Rail, the Air India and Jet Air airpasses, sleeper buses, express buses, bus buses, Ambassador cars and those munty, polluting Enfield Motorbikes. There are definately better ways to travel than mounting a slow slow slow donkey. Yet I have seen many indians doing just that.
The two beasties in the picture seem to be working donkeys. Beasts of burden. Poor little blighters. But they look like they are having a chat so that is cool huh! I like Donkeys they are fab!
293Rs per ticket for second class sleeper non a/c. I saw a foreign couple ticket cost 1000+Rs in first class a/c same train with me. So if you don't want to meet too many local peoples, just buy the 1000+ ticket.
If you are in New Delhi, go to the ND Railway Station, walk up first floor to the International ticket bureau, fill up a form and queue. That's all you need to do. And if you are in Varanasi, better to pay 75Rs for your hotel to buy you the train ticket, because if you take autorickshaw to Railway Station, it cost you some 40Rs and another 40Rs come back, so better to let them do for you, and the ticket cost the same, 293Rs from Varanasi to New Delhi.
Toal time 20 hours but claimed 15 hours by railway guys. So you can always add 20% to what they told you and expect something bad.
No need to worry about foods on train, you can buy as many foods as you like on train, cost less than 10Rs while hot tea cost 5Rs per disposable cup.
Varanasi RS is the one I need. The distance between the ghats and railway station is 30-40Rs of rickshaw. If I were to buy the ticket myself, I need to pay 70-80Rs plus queueing. Therefore I paid the hotel 75Rs service fee for them to settle everything, and I got my train ticket the next day. Picture is the Varanasi RS.
The best way to see Varanasi ghats is a boatride starting from Ghat 1 to Ghat 100. One has to bargain for the price however. The best time is early morning (if you wish to see the ghats) or duskfall (if you wish to see the diyas lit along the ghats, a wonderful view)
Get to Sarnath cost 120Rs return by autorickshaw. Never ask where to take autorickshaw, you only have to stand on the street in less than 10 seconds, at least 2, 3 or 4 guys would ask you for a ride. For Sarnath is about 10km, rickshaw is not a good choice, autorickshaw is probably the best and they will wait at Sarnath up to 4 hours to take you back to hotel for only 120Rs.
Travel books warned of cyclo/taxi drivers refusing to pick up passengers from the train station to their respective choice of accomodation UNLESS the passengers agree to the driver's choice of hotels etc...
Just walk out to the main road from the train station and try to hail for drivers from the road. Most will conspire with the drivers who gather in the train station. However, you may find some independent ones whom will agree to drive. Be warned though, as these drivers are limited, more likely than not, you would need to share the same transportation with the rests of your gang.
We did and there's 4 of us altogether... A great experience... harrowing but fun!
If you have to cover a long distance, take sleeper trains. They are comfortable and reliable. Try to reserve 1st class, is a bit more expensive, but there is quite a difference!
An interesting experience is to make a short trip in one of the “basic” local trains, where you can feel the pulse of the fascinating everyday life…
The way to find your seat in a train, if you have made aprevious reservation, is quite easy: The cars are named by a letter and a number (AS1 means Airconditioned Sleeper Car1), so is easy to find your seat. The list shows a "Gonzalez" in bed 28. This way you can know in advance the name, nationality and age of your travel companions.
the streets in and around varanasi are CHAOTIC!!!
Everything under the sky can be found here, be it human, cars, trucks, bicycles, motors, trickshaws, animals, street vendors etc...
Crossing the roads as well as walkin along is a big challenge... imagine being rammed into by a cow just because you're in its way.. haha.. happened to me! :P